The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va., Lindsey Fleming column
Feb 07, 2013 (The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
NO MATTER HOW STEADFASTLY I tell myself things are best in moderation, come winter, I binge. On everything.
The three biggest offenders when December rolls around are, in no particular order: Murder-mystery books, various incarnations of cheese and potatoes, and TV shows.
Take, for instance, my Monday night. After a long, cold walk home from work, I microwaved half a box of premade pierogies, huddled under my comforter and watched four episodes of "House of Cards" -- staying up way past my bed time in the process.
But if anybody can make me lose sleep, it's a mandarin-hued, Southerndrawl-wielding Kevin Spacey playing power-hungry D.C. politician Francis Underwood; and Robin Wright as his successful and equally ruthless wife, Claire, who has a short 'do that deserves its own spinoff. This unscrupulous pair is the center of Netflix's first foray into the world of episodic TV programming.
The hook: The company released all 13 episodes of the show's first season Friday. The move was designed to encourage the binging I am so fond of, and something for which Netflix, Hulu, the advent of cable's On Demand feature and network websites have laid the groundwork.
Though this is the first show to promote itself this way, it's far from the first I've devoured in multiple-episode chunks. In fact, it's the only way I've ever seen "Breaking Bad," "Dexter" and BBC's "Sherlock."
While there's still plenty of room for TV series' traditional trajectory -- I look forward to "Mad Men" every week, wondering what tricks Don Draper has up his well-tailored sleeve -- I, for one, am happy to see a business facilitate my insatiable consumption desires. And, thankfully, Netflix does it in a way that is appropriately addictive.
Directed by David Fincher of "Social Network" fame, "House of Cards" tracks Underwood on his quest for revenge, after the House majority whip is spurned by a newly elected president he helped get into office. I'm still iffy about the Shakespearean bent the show uses to tell the story -- all of the fourth-wall breaking that Spacey does wears thin, especially when he's reiterating things the scene clearly indicates on its own. But the cast makes up for the logistical deficiencies. Along with Spacey and Wright, Kate Mara works well as a reporter who goes to whatever lengths necessary to fast forward her career. And Corey Stoll as an addiction-suffering congressman under Underwood's thumb deserves all the camera time he gets, and then some.
In fact, the hour-long drama shines best when the husband-and-wife team share screen time with ensemble players. And though the insider story of dirty politics is far from a fresh theme, when done properly, it's still a highly entertaining one. Already seven episodes in, I'm champing at the bit for season two, six days after the first one aired. Could be Underwood isn't the only monster Netflix created.
LINDSEY FLEMING is a lifestyles writer/copy editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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